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The European Union’s top antitrust regulator will this week issue formal charges against the societies responsible for collecting music royalties across Europe for breaking competition rules, according to people familiar with the case.

The charges are a response to a complaint brought by RTL in 2000. The broadcaster, owned by Bertelsmann of Germany, argued that it should be able to get rights to use a piece of music across Europe by going through a single collecting society rather than having to negotiate with a different society in each country in which it broadcasts.

The case has raised concerns in smaller European Union countries that their collecting societies could lose out to more powerful bodies such as Gema in Germany and MCPS/PRS in the UK.

The European Commission has criticised the fact that authors are forced to transfer their rights to the collecting society of the country in which they reside, and that users of those rights must acquire separate licences for each territory. It is also critical of agreements between the various EU collecting societies.

These charges will be communicated to all EU collecting societies in a “statement of objections” - the formal chargesheet used by the Commission to detail alleged antitrust abuses. People familiar with the case said the statement would most likely be sent early this week.

RTL would not comment.

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